• Newsletter Oct 16, 2020: From Machine Learning to Moths

    October 15, 2020

    Are you as excited as we are for our upcoming meetings? We hope so! Next up is a virtual field trip to the New Jersey Institute of Technology on October 27; check out the agenda and register. And before we know it, it will be time for the four Tuesdays of the virtual [next] conference (agenda; registration).

    Microsoft is evolving its Office suite to make documents accessible. Is the updated image-captioning algorithm more accurate than human captioners, as the company claims? We’ll see. But it performs very well in its limited context testing.. Once this captioning feature of Microsoft’s Seeing AI accessibility app—which is widely used by people with vision impairment—becomes incorporated into Office, Outlook, and PowerPoint, alt text could be auto-generated, removing the burden from content creators. (Larry Zitnick, Philadelphia, Jul 2015)

    That is not to say that machine learning always gets it right. A case in point is the ability to spoof camera-based autopilot systems, including Tesla’s and Mobileye’s, into taking sudden evasive action by simply projecting momentary images on or alongside roadways—images too fleeting for the human driver to notice, such as of a phantom pedestrian, a spurious stop sign, or incorrect speed limit sign. Hacking into a roadside billboard and interjecting a few bogus frames also does the trick. (George Hotz, Berkeley, Mar 2019)

    Tying together Microsoft and nefarious hackers—but in a good way—the firm has secured a court order to take control of the world’s largest botnet, Trickbot, to proactively limit the potential for the Russia-linked criminals who run it to invoke election-related ransomware attacks. The U.S. military’s Cyber Command has also taken recent action to disrupt Trickbot. (Steve Grobman, San Francisco, May 2016)

    Score one for the white hats in the realm of deepfakes: Stanford and UC Berkeley researchers have developed an AI-based approach to detecting lip-sync technology by sleuthing out inconsistencies among the mouth formations—visemes—used during speech. When trained on Barack Obama speeches, the AI not only detected deepfakes of him with 90% accuracy, but also deepfakes of others with 80% accuracy. Let the games - specifically the continual game of one-ups-man-ship - begin. How about we make readers the ultimate weapon in this war by improving media literacy? (Sirer Irmak, Los Angeles, Mar 2018; Doug Emlen, Washington, D.C., Sep 2016)

    Maybe people are learning, as evidenced by a RAND study showing that people are less likely to “like” a story they see on Facebook after learning that it is part of a Russian propaganda campaign. A small victory, but a victory nonetheless. (Judith Estrin, Berkeley, Mar 2019)

    Researchers at Phang University of Science and Technology in South Korea have applied deep learning to the development of novel materials for storage media. They computationally discovered an oxygen octahedral rotation variant of the nonpolar perovskite oxide CaTiO3 that could evince the ferroelectricity to underpin digital storage. The trick was to do deep learning across picometer-scale variations of the native perovskite, and to use the output as the basis for designing materials with novel properties. “It could be an advanced approach for materials analysis that can help to understand the mechanism for creating new materials with unique physical phenomena,” says project lead. (Garth Gibson, Washington, D.C., Apr 2013)

    Moth versus drone? A moth with an attached sub-100-mg sensor, using a magnetic pin and Bluetooth-based communication, that generates a magnetic field to pop out the pin when the moth flies over the desired location. Deployment of multiple sensors would create a distributed environmental-monitoring network. Why use moths as the conveyance? “[They can] traverse through narrow spaces better than any drone and sustain much longer flights,” says the University of Washington researcher. (Ian Glenn, Brooklyn, Jul 2016)

    Well, that was brief: China’s experiment with letting its citizens have legal, yet limited, access to Western social media sites—including YouTube, Facebook, and Google—lasted just a day. Chinese cybersecurity firm Qihoo 360 launched the Tuber Android app last Friday, only to remove it Saturday after roughly 5M downloads. Although the short-lived experiment could be touted as a positive instance of China opening up, the app’s terms of service included all manner of privacy constraints, including access to a user’s real identity and location, and reporting undesirable activities to the authorities. (Brewster Kahle, San Francisco, May 2016; Stephen Wicker and Daniel Gillmor, Washington, D.C., Sep 2018; Calvin Chin, Singapore, Jul 2009)


    “To keep China in business, the government has to allow some exceptions to its control efforts—even knowing that many citizens will exploit resulting loopholes.”—James Fallows

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  • November Barnstormer is Coming. Oct 9, 2020 Newsletter

    October 08, 2020

    Everyone knows about the fiercely anticipated, unprecedented, controversial, groundbreaking event coming up in November. We are talking about TTI/Vanguard’s [next] 2020 conference, of course.  Beginning on November 10th and running until December 8th, you’ll hear from well-known speakers such as George Church, Tony Fadell, Gill Pratt, Jerry Kaplan - and a slew of others. Members should register now to join us!

    Should the US government break up Google, Apple, Facebook or Amazon? Benedict Evans (San Francisco, Dec 2015) has a nuanced answer that addresses how the Tech Big Four are not only different from each other - but also from historical examples such as Standard Oil and AT&T. He even draws comparisons to Microsoft’s antitrust efforts which, of course, scored a different outcome.

    If you like tech history, check out this film, hoping to raise funds on Kickstarter. It covers a theme long addressed at TTI/V - how the magic of research and innovation is long gone, driven to the ground by an obsession with short-term ROI. You’ll likely recognize Alan Kay in the clip provided. (Alan Kay and Len Kleinrock, regional meetings, Summer 2015)

    When a driver sits behind the wheel, the general goal is to get from here to there safely, despite a continual stream of distractions. In contrast, an autonomous-driving algorithm predicts an optimum path and sticks to it. Researchers at the Delft University of Technology’s Dept of Cognitive Robotics are building models to better reflect a human sense of risk (e.g., okay to risk enjoying the landscape when the road is bordered by grass but not when driving along a cliff edge). The goal is less to make autonomous cars better anticipate the behavior of human drivers. (Simon Tong, Brooklyn, Jun 2018)

    In energy-harvesting news (Canan Dagdeviren, Washington, D.C, Sep 2018), with an eye toward generating an alternative to low-power batteries, researchers at the University of Arkansas have demonstrated the ability to extract a current from the room-temperature Brownian motion within graphene using a two-diode circuit.

    Continuing the materials science–energy theme, researchers at the University of Quebec’s INRS are building a low-cost membraneless fuel cell to power portable electronic devices. The proof-of-concept prototype features selective electrodes in the cathode compartment that remain inactive to alcohol but sensitive to electricity-generating oxygen molecules extracted from the air. (Lanny Schmidt, Montreal, Apr 2004)

    Remember that Dr. Seuss story about the pale green pants with nobody inside them? Perhaps those trousers served as inspiration to Yale materials scientist Rebecca Kramer-Bottiglio, who has created a robotic—yet comfortable—fabric, complete with actuation, fibers of variable stiffness, and sensing. Shape-memory alloys invoke actuation (e.g., bending), fiber stiffness is modified through temperature changes, and sensors painted onto the fabric with conductive ink detect those variations. This robotic fabric is being considered as a candidate for assistive clothing, self-deploying tents, and robotic parachutes. (Field trip SRI, Feb 2017; Stephen Jacobson, Atlanta, Dec 2004)

    Meanwhile, at the University of Cambridge, when sensors consisting of silver and/or semiconducting fibers of single-micron thickness were 3-D printed onto facemasks, they successfully detected how moisture penetrates masks of different types: straight through surgical masks, but around the edges of N95 face coverings.

    A multinational team of researchers are using the CRISPR/Cas9 pathway (Eric Kmiec, virtual conference, Sep 2020; George Church, Boston, Jun 2015) to reduce the percentage of lignin in poplar trees, making them better precursors for a variety of bio-based products, even while retaining their growth efficiency. The strategy could also be used as an efficient agricultural tool to engineer traits in other crops.

    And congratulations to newly minted Nobel laureates Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for their development of CRISPR/Cas9 as a scientific gene-editing tool.

    We are all in on anything that makes science more accessible. The French public scientific research organization CEA is making its browser-based Quantum Prisoner videogame available in English. According to the CEA, “[The game’s] only aim is to disseminate scientific and technical culture—and make science (even more) fun!”

    Without adjustments to our economic system and regulatory policies, we may be in for an extended period of social turmoil.-- Jerry Kaplan

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  • TTI/Vanguard: Slow news day?

    October 02, 2020

    Many thanks to the collection of speakers who made The Game Has Changed: 2020 virtual conference inspiring and thought-provoking for all who joined us. Highlights, videos, and presentations for all four installments are available in the TTI/Vanguard archive. Next up is a virtual field trip to the New Jersey Institute of Technology on October 27; look here for the agenda and to register. And before we know it, it will be time for the four Tuesdays of the virtual [next] conference (agenda; registration). A variety of virtual field trips are in the works for early 2021—stay tuned for details.

    The biggest news of the day, President and First Lady Trump’s positive COVID-19 diagnoses, have spurred the Washington Post to assess the development from a technology viewpoint, in part citing a “nuclear information bomb” exploding on social media, according to former FBI special agent Clint Watts. (upcoming NJIT field trip talk by Cody Buntain and Julie Ancis, Oct 2020; Renee DiResta, San Francisco, Dec 2019; Jonathan Taplin, Boston, Apr 2017)

    We wish the United States President, First Lady and all of those impacted a speedy recovery.


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  • TTI/Vanguard: All the light you can (or cannot) see. Sept 25, 2020 Newsletter

    September 24, 2020

    Note from Lisa Yao: Our parent company, Euromoney Institutional Investor, announced a reorganization last week, which resulted in the loss of 240 jobs across the company. It is the largest workforce reduction the company has ever experienced. Unfortunately, two of the people impacted are our teammates. Claudia Miklas has been the heart and soul of TTI/Vanguard for 14 years. Our community will miss her optimism, her friendship, and her love of life. Joy Boston brought her own love of technology and her immense sense of wonder and adventure to our world. @teslajoy also gave us a front row seat to her Twitter trajectory and we cannot wait to see more. We wish Claudia and Joy well in their next steps, and we intend to see them, both in-person and virtually, at future events. We’ll stay in touch and encourage each of you to do the same:

    Joy Boston
    Claudia Miklas

    One week remains in our fall conference, The Game Has Changed: 2020. Join us on Tuesday, Sep 29 for the final installment, with talks related to environmental economics, the progress of the pandemic, and statistical literacy composing the coming-week’s agenda. If you have yet to do so, register here. The Highlights summary, videos, and presentations from this past Tuesday’s edition will be available in the TTI/Vanguard archive today.

    Looking toward the future—specifically, toward 2020’s edition of [next]—strap yourself in and get ready for a wild ride. Here’s a taste of what’s coming: Computer scientist, futurist, and serial entrepreneur Jerry Kaplan will speak on the future of work; Stanford bioengineering professor Manu Prakash will teach us about fluidics-based computation; also hailing from Stanford, material scientist Nick Melosh will bring us up to speed on delivery mechanisms for immuno anti-cancer therapies; IBM’s Jeanette Garcia will provide an update on the chemistry of quantum computing (that entanglement is rooted in physical materials, after all); and Stanford’s director of the Open Virtual Assistant Lab, Monica Lam, will explain how privacy-preserving Almond seeks to reduce Big Tech’s control of the Internet. Note that this is the lineup for just the first Tuesday (Nov 10) of the four-installment [next] conference. Registration is open. And, leading into this blockbuster event is a virtual field trip to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, hosted by friend of TTI/V David Bader.

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  • TTI/Vanguard: Member news! Newsletter Sept 18, 2020

    September 17, 2020

    We remain in the midst of our fall conference: The Game Has Changed: 2020. Join us for the upcoming installments on the remaining Tuesdays of September, with talks related to health, healthcare, and medicine dominating the coming-week’s agenda. If you have yet to do so, register here. The Highlights summary, video, and some presentations from this past Tuesday’s edition will be available in the TTI/Vanguard archive today.

    Member firm Hyundai has graciously invited members of the TTI/Vanguard community, as well as their colleagues, to virtually attend its upcoming fifth annual Mobility Innovators Forum. Leaders from the industry will come together to discuss economics, public–private partnerships, ethics and human values, sustainability, and innovations on automotive and the future of mobility. Please register at the MIF 2020 website and share with your network to support Hyundai’s Mobility Innovators Forum 2020.

    More great member news ... Hearty congratulations to longtime member Takayuki Inagawa and NTT Docomo Ventures for earning a spot on Global Corporate Venturing’s 2020 Powerlist. A few other community members have been honored – take a look:

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  • TTI/Vanguard: Is Covid-19 Over? Sept 4, 2020 Newsletter

    September 03, 2020

    If you joined us for the first Tuesday of our September virtual conference, then you know that The Game Has Changed: 2020 already represents the contrasting thinking of 2020 itself. When one speaker declared, “COVID is over”, the chat erupted with a chorus of disagreement. TTI/V prides itself on being anything but an echo chamber, and our speakers and members vigorously proved that point. If you missed the first three talks, the videos, PPTs, and Highlights are posted in our archive. If anyone needs help accessing their User ID or password, Claudia is ready to help.

    Remember that we’ll skip this coming Tuesday (Happy Labor Day to our U.S. community members) and will resume on Tuesday, September 15th. Please join us

    Some of the most robust discussions on Tuesday came occurred after the sessions. A spirited discussion around - what else - the future of covid-19 included plenty of opinions and plenty of facts. Some of the links mentioned included the below. (Thanks to Dan Gould for sharing!)
    Paul Romer: Roadmap to Responsibly Repen America
    Roadmap to Pandemic Resilience
    Covid-19 Risk Among Airline Passengers: Should the Middle Seat Remain Empty?

    Mathematician Ott-Heinrich Keller famously posed a problem about edge sharing when covering spaces with identical tiles. For 90 years, the answer has challenged researchers tackling spaces of various dimensionalities. Recently, 40 computers—along with a creative combination of human and machine intelligence—yielded the answer for the lone dimensionality for which the problem remained unresolved. Unfortunately—at least for human understanding—the proof for seven dimensions lacks clear explainability. (David Gunning, Brooklyn, Jun 2018; Eric Mueller, Austin, Feb 2016) 


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  • TTI/Vanguard: Read to the end for the good jokes! Aug 28, 2020 Newsletter

    August 27, 2020

    There is still time to register for our September virtual conference, The Game Has Changed: 2020. Kickoff is Tuesday!

    Good news on the medical front #1: A dozen Israeli labs will be rolling out a combinatorially clever form of pool testing for SARS-CoV-2. Each person’s sample is divided among several pools, such that positivity analysis across the set of pools pinpoints the virus-laden individual(s) within the full batch. The three researchers behind this methodology have formed the company Poold Diagnostics and intend to bring the approach to U.S. labs. (Dominic Suicu, Seattle, Mar 2020)

    Good news on the medical front #2: The FDA has approved Abbott to manufacture its inexpensive ($5), fast (15-minute) COVID-19 test. It intends to produce a hefty number of tests (50M) monthly by October and release them with an app to be used as a “digital health pass” by those with negative results. We have some reservations, though: accuracy (false positives and negatives hover in the 2–3% range—according to Abbott), distribution (although the form factor is akin to a pregnancy test, they are to be administered professionally and therefore require infrastructure), and longevity of results’ utility (a negative test today doesn’t mean you won’t contract the virus tomorrow, meaning the health pass should be deemed ephemeral).

    Questionable news on the medical front: In the meantime, the CDC altered its guidance on testing this week, specifying that “healthy people” need not be tested following close, extended exposure to others who test positive for COVID-19—this, despite broad consensus among immunologists and epidemiologists that up to half of all transmission stems from asymptomatic/presymptomatic individuals. (Dominic Suicu, Seattle, Mar 2020; Anthony Goldbloom, podcast, Spring 2020)

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  • TTI/Vanguard: It is time for some good news! Aug 20, 2020 Newsletter

    August 19, 2020

    There is still time to register for our September virtual conference, The Game Has Changed: 2020, and, looking ahead, our October virtual field trip to the New Jersey Institute of Technology, where longtime TTIV-er David Bader will be our host.

    Good news on the medical front #1: During this week’s virtual field trip to Stanley Black & Decker (the video and PowerPoint slides will be available to members shortly in the TTI/Vanguard archive) we heard a lot about protective face masks. Meanwhile, researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a quick-and-accessible DIY method to decontaminate 3M N95 masks. All you need is a rice cooker or multicooker: Just “cook” the mask at 212F for 50 minutes, without pressure, and it’s ready for reuse, with no compromise to its filtration efficacy. It is recommended, however, to dedicate a cooker for this purpose, rather than cooking dinner in it directly afterward.

    Good news on the medical front #2: A longitudinal study has led to the development of a noninvasive blood test that detects cancer markers years before other diagnostics indicate the presence of the disease. The so-called PanSeer test can detect stomach, esophageal, colorectal, lung, and liver cancers. (Melissa Lechner, San Diego, Feb 2015)

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  • TTI/Vanguard: Webinar tomorrow and much more!

    August 17, 2020

    We’ll be looking at energy, security, healthcare, communication, and other ways that The Game Has Changed—please register for the September meeting if you have not yet. Don't forget to also register for the virtual field trip to Stanley Black & Decker, Wednesday, Aug 19, 1:00–3:30 pm EDT, where we get an inside view at—yes—tools, but also the firm's business incubation, venture, internal innovation, and cybersecurity activities. Mark Maybury (Washington, D.C., Sep/Oct 2014) will be our host.

    Speaking of changes - our Santa Monica office has closed after 25 years in California. Claudia, Joy, Lisa and Robin will continue to work from home. We’ll miss seeing each other every day - but we sure won’t miss the LA traffic.

    And speaking of cities, we are busy evaluating venues for next year. And we’ve been considering a few options: one option is to host 2 conferences in Washington, DC and 2 conferences in the Bay Area, CA. Those are the two places where the majority of our clients reside and we’d like to remove as many barriers to attendance as possible. Another option is to travel to warm states where we have the likelihood of more outdoor events. And, of course, we’ll always have the livestream and video archive for any members who cannot or does not wish to travel. Have an opinion? Take our survey.


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  • TTI/Vanguard: We Need You; Remember to Renew! Aug 7, 2020 Newsletter

    August 06, 2020

    Note from Lisa Yao: The members of this community are our raison d'etre. The collective wisdom in the room (even if it’s the Zoom room these days!) is treasured and irreplaceable. And we intend to keep this community together—virtual, physical, any way that we can. It is doable; we’ve weathered storms before. But this particular storm is going to require a whole new level of commitment, creativity, and sheer chutzpah from all our stakeholders. We can do it, but we have to do it together. Our organization will only endure with our beloved members.

    Speaking of our organization, have you registered for our September meeting yet?

    Enterra Solutions’ Stephen DeAngelis (Washington, D.C., Sep 2015; Regional Meetings, e.g., Chicago, Oct 2014) has summarized the challenges and potential advances laid out by McKinsey Global Institute when implementing an AI strategy. His advice: “Cognitive technologies can have a powerful impact on the success of a business. Often, however, taking a ‘crawl, walk, run’ approach is the best way to approach digital transformation.”

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